JOHN Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has hailed the introduction of the world’s first malaria vaccine as a game-changer.
Speaking during a virtual press conference on Thursday, the Africa CDC chief said as malaria is one of the biggest killers especially of young children on the continent, the introduction of the vaccine will reduce child deaths.
‘A combination of Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS accounts for around one million deaths a year in Africa,’ he told journalists.
‘Regarding Malaria, most of the deaths occur in younger children in Africa, so having a vaccine that shows that level of effectiveness and preventing severe illness and deaths in children is remarkable,’ Nkengasong noted.
The Africa CDC also emphasised the introduction of the world’s first malaria vaccine is a culmination of nearly a century-long effort.
‘Malaria is a uniquely difficult parasite to fight because of the way it keeps invading the immune system,’ he said.
Nkengasong further mentioned African countries that took part in malaria clinical trials and succeeded. ‘I want to congratulate Malawi, Kenya and Ghana that took part in the malaria vaccine clinical trials. It shows African leadership and a can-do attitude to bringing solutions to some of our health problems.’
Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation announced that it has endorsed the vaccine.
According to the WHO, the vaccine is the result of 30 years of research and development by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the international non-profit organization Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health, and with a network of research centers in Africa.
The WHO said its recommendation is based on results from more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine that were administered to more than 800,000 children in pilot countries including Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019.